“Hello, Dong. He’s out of town. He left this morning,” Mommy said.
“This morning? How come he didn’t tell me?” I said, a little surprised.
“He was in a hurry. He told me he had to attend some emergency meeting somewhere. He left early, before sunrise, without informing you. Is something wrong?” she said.
I sighed deeply. “Is he okay?” I continued.
“Yes, he’s fine. Just a little weak and tired, but other than that, he’s fine,” she said.
“Where is he headed?”
“I don’t know, Dong.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, I really don’t know. He didn’t tell me.”
“That’s strange. He can’t just leave without telling us where he’s going.”
“That’s true,” she paused. “That is strange. It didn’t occur to me then to ask him.” Her voice sounded grave.
“Did he tell you how long he’ll be gone?”
“He didn’t mention that, either.”
“He didn’t say anything about that, too? Did he bring a large suitcase?”
“No. Actually, he didn’t bring anything.”
I suddenly felt melancholic. “What time was his flight?” I went on.
“Three in the morning. He woke up very early. He didn’t want me to send him to the airport because he knew how tired I was, so he told me to go back to sleep,” she said.
“Have you called him yet?”
“Yes, I did. But he’s not answering. I already left a dozen messages at least, but he hasn’t responded.” She started crying.
“Me, what’s wrong? Why are you crying?” I said.
“I don’t know where he is, Dong, and I already miss him,” she said.
“Me, don’t worry. I’m sure he’s okay. I’ll call him right now and let you know what’s up as soon as possible. Just stay home today, okay? Don’t go anywhere.”
I hang up the phone and dialed Daddy’s number. There was no answer. I dialed a second time, and still he didn’t answer. I kept on dialing a dozen more times.
After an hour, I called Mommy again. “Me, I’m sorry, I can’t contact him,” I said in a low voice.
She was silent.
“Me, are you there?”
“I need to tell you something. I had an awful dream last night,” I said, hesitantly. “I dreamt that Daddy passed away.”
“Don’t say that!” she exclaimed.
“I’m sorry, Me, but that was my dream. It was so vivid and detailed that I believed it was real. So when I woke up this morning and realized it was all just a dream, I felt so relieved and overjoyed that I woke up Maria and the baby. But now I’m really starting to worry for Daddy.”
“Alright. Let’s give him time. Maybe he’s busy and can’t attend to our calls yet. Maybe he left his phone at the airport or inside a taxi, or maybe someone has stolen it. Let’s wait.”
“I have to take a short nap. I’ll call you again later.”
I anxiously waited for Mommy’s call all morning, so when she finally called after lunch, I dropped everything that I was doing and ran to the kitchen where I left my phone. My heart jumped when I saw Daddy’s name on the screen.
“De!” I answered him immediately, relieved, happy, and agitated at the same time. “Finally! Where are you?”
His voice was weak. “How’s your Mommy?” he began.
“She’s been worried sick about you. Have you returned her calls? Have you answered her text messages? What’s wrong? Are you okay? Why haven’t you informed her where you’re going. Where are you?” I said, almost out of breath.
“I miss her.”
“She’s extremely worried about you. Where are you now? What’s going on?”
“I miss Tommy. Where is he?”
“De, what’s wrong? You’re not answering my questions.”
“I’m sorry. I just miss you all. How are you all doing? How’s Tommy?”
I felt more and more anxious and worried for Daddy, but also annoyed that he’s ignoring my questions. “We miss you, too. We’re worried about you. You left without informing us. Tommy is okay,” I said.
“That’s good,” he said.
“You sound sad.”
“You can make it on your own.”
I became perplexed and alarmed. “What are you talking about?” I said.
“You will do fine. Of course, it will be hard at first. Just remember me and what I taught you.”
“What are you saying?”
“I’m sorry I can’t be there for you anymore.”
“Oh, God. What’s wrong?”
“Your Mommy’s there. She’s such a strong woman and she has an unshakable faith. I told her once that if she left ahead of me, I won’t be able to survive. It’s true. I can’t live without her. I love her so much. Take care of her, for me.”
I broke down. “De, I love you so much! Why didn’t you say good bye?”
“I’m sorry, Dong. I love you, too.”
“You can’t just leave and not say good bye!” My tears were running down my cheeks, and I was sobbing.
“I’m sorry, Dong. Take care of your brother, too, okay? And your wife. And take good care of little Tommy, alright? Remind him always that I love him very, very much.”
“Why are you leaving so soon? I want Tommy to grow up around you. I want him to build memories with you.”
“It will never happen.”
“I, we, are so miserable.”
“I don’t know how to fix the car.”
“You’ll have to figure that out on your own.”
“And the house. It will fall apart.”
“I don’t know how to run the business. I am totally lost.”
“De? Are you there?”
“You will have to learn how to do that on your own.”
“But I am so afraid and lost.”
“I’m sorry, Dong.”
“But I want to see you again.”
“I want to hug you, De.”
“You can’t, Dong.”
“I feel so empty, De. We need you. We badly need you. You cannot leave us.”
“I already have.”
“You must come back.”
“This can’t be happening to us! To our family!”
“Love one another, okay? You must keep things together. Take care of your Mommy. Take care of everyone.”
“This is not real. I am dreaming.”
“You are right. You are sleeping. But when you wake up, you’ll see that nothing has changed. Please pray for me, always. We’ll meet again, someday.”
“I can’t wait for that day. The distance between now and then is so long. It’s unbearable: the years and decades we’ll have to go through without you. The birthdays. Jan’s wedding. New babies. Christmas and New Years. A lifetime of waiting is agonizingly long. We cannot live without you!”
“I love you.”
Maria shook my shoulders and I woke up. My face and neck were wet with tears and my body with sweat. I was shivering with fear. The room was still dark and cold. “You were grunting. Were you having a nightmare? Let me hug you,” she said.
She wrapped her arms around me and soothed me back to sleep.